Editorial: Discovering the model of Kiwi shopping

Last updated 13:00 07/07/2012

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OPINION: In a week that saw a fundamental building block of the universe discovered, there was also further evidence of an essential component of New Zealand society.

The search for the Higgs boson took decades, billions of dollars and extremely clever scientists to find evidence of a subatomic particle that may explain of how every object in the universe has mass.

The New Zealand building block is rather easier to find, and may explain how every object in the country has a price.

Shopping around, or more specifically, bargain hunting, is a national pastime that leaves rugby in its wake if you compared active participation on websites such as Trade Me. Where better to browse, especially for blokes averse to traipsing through crowded stores, than in the comfort of your own home, with a coffee and a mouse.

Who knows where the hunt will lead? An elusive decorative plate of Queen Mother as a child ($30 buy now), a stainless steel Mt Cook artwork ($300 starting bid), or a Lego Taj Mahal ($800 starting bid).

Two Nelson buyers added their names to the national shopping hall of fame this week with Trade Me purchases that prove you can buy just about anything online.

The Claus family from Belgrove are now the proud owners of an English Electric two-car train after making a last-minute bid on Trade Me on Monday.

The auction received more than 85,000 views – also proving that there are a lot of trainspotters out there – but the only other bid was from a 4-year-old whose accidental $29,990 bid was withdrawn by his apologetic mother.

Anja and Hans Claus were much more deliberate, even though they bought the 38-tonne train without seeing it, and now have to work out how to get it to their property where they plan to use it for accommodation.

Possibly even quirkier was Nelson jeweller Glen James' purchase of an albino possum found dead in a trap on the Queen Charlotte Track last weekend.

Showing that even possums have their posthumous day, the online auction had more than 16,000 views, sparked a debate on whether it should have been killed, and drew Mr James into a bidding battle before he emerged with the frozen marsupial for a cool $370.

Naturally, he will have it stuffed and placed next to his stuffed freshwater crocodile and albino chamois.

There is still time for Nelson buyers to make it a quirky hat-trick with the auction of the country's first crushed boy-racer car closing next week.

As with the possum proceeds – that went to conservation efforts – money raised from the flat slab of metal will also go to a good cause, Youthline.

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These unusual buys highlight the diversity of online shopping, but the volume of it is also making waves.

Last month, 6.7 million people visited Trade Me, spending an average of 18 minutes on the site.

It has 3 million active members and yesterday there were more than 2 million listings.

Which means a lot of small business turns into a big business for the site, and other related firms, such as courier services.

The search for a bargain has taken on extra significance in the economic downturn and fits snugly with the Kiwi psyche of making do. That and buying something wacky for the joy of it.

- The Nelson Mail

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